Local trio Runoff is built around the dependable tent poles of the sanitized thrash of pop-punk and the chunky riffsmanship of garage-rock. On its debut, self-titled record, Runoff is apt enough at both; the band has learned a few things from the economy of those first few White Stripes records and relishes returning to short, overdriven figures. What sets the band apart — in mostly entrancing and potentially alienating fashion — comes in the full-contact vocals of guitarist Brendan Corcoran, late of the Hold Steady-inspired quintet B&E. He has a rubbery, elastic voice that stretches and contracts across these songs in wild yelps and near-catatonic fits. Catharsis and control walk hand in hand on many of these performances, though the genre's predilection for fuzz over fidelity leaves the particulars of Corcoran's lyrics a bit muddled. On "Storm Drain," Corcoran often sings in contained bursts, but the low rumble of "KSOFM" gives room for his more theatrical affectations — the Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" comes to mind, despite the decidedly un-glam surroundings.
Corcoran is joined by an able rhythm section, and Kyle Christians (bass) and Jason King (drums) can whip these songs around the room, keeping them lean while adding some necessary heft. The spirited breakdown in "Haunted Heart" shows what the band can do with drop-out/stop-start dynamics — such moments of clarity are welcome after a few like-sounding songs that sprint to the finish line. Once the riffs give way to more developed songs on the album's latter half, Runoff sounds bigger and more controlled. Closing cut "The World in the Walls" may be the best of the bunch here, if only for its willingness to abandon the blueprint: An acoustic guitar provides a rhythmic anchor, letting the electric guitar craft stormy squalls. Whether this predicts where Runoff will go next remains to be seen — this is a new band, after all — but these moments show depth and range on a record that can be charming and charging, if a bit monochromatic.
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